As you plan your first business, it is hard to navigate the roads of legal issues that first-time business owners will be facing these days unless they hire a competent and respected lawyer to be part of their company, it will be hard for them to grow their business. When do businesses need the services of a lawyer?

Although the answer to this question depends on the business, you are running and your circumstances, it is generally beneficial to your company to consult a lawyer before making an important decision that could have serious legal consequences. It includes checking for the compliance of the company with the rules and regulations set by the state, negotiating with the loaning companies, obtaining patents or trademarks, preparing the buy and sell agreements, assisting with your company’s tax planning.

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It also involves drawing up the employee  pension plans, reviewing the business forms, drawing up relevant documents and negotiating when buying or selling real estate properties, reviewing the contracts of every employee of your company, selling or exporting your products and services in your area as well as debt collection.

If something goes wrong with your business, you may need a lawyer to defend your trademark rights, go to court for any employee dispute, or defend your company in any product liability lawsuits. There are business owners that wait until someone filed a lawsuit against them before consulting a lawyer, but in today’s world where litigations and filing cases is as simple as counting one – two – three, that is not the smartest idea.

A lot of business owners say that their relationship with an attorney is like a marriage; it takes a lot of your time, effort as well as money to develop. That is why it is imperative to lay the foundation for a good partnership early.

Choosing a business lawyer

How can you make sure that you find the right lawyer for your business? Ask for any recommendation from other business owners in your industry or ask any professionals like accountants and bankers that you trust. Do not just hire the first name that pops out in your email or the first lawyer that you found in the classified ads.

Ask for the strengths and weakness of the lawyer that people recommended. Ask people in your industry for any law firms or lawyer that they think can help you with your business. If you need more names, you can contact your area’s Bar Association; most of them are accepting referral services.

The next thing you need to do is set up an interview with five law firms or lawyers in your list with the best portfolio or with the most experience dealing with companies like yours. Tell them you are interested in building a long-lasting relationship and find out which among the candidates are willing to meet with your company for an initial interview or consultation, free of charge.

At this initial interview or discussion, you need to be ready to tell the lawyer all about your business and its need for a legal counsel. You need to take note of what the lawyer was saying or what they are doing and look for these qualities:

Experience

Although it is not essential to find a specialist in a particular field, it makes a lot of sense to look for an attorney that specializes in small-business issues as opposed to a lawyer that specializes in maritime law. For example, you want to hire a Miami business lawyer if you are running a business in Miami. You do not want to hire a Miami divorce lawyer and let them handle your business. You also need to make sure that the attorney is willing to handle small issues. Is the problem with your company worth their time?

Understanding

You are looking for someone who will be in for a long time, a long-term partner for your business and will be with you through thick and thin. You are a small and a startup business, but it does not mean that you will be a small startup business for the rest of your life. The lawyer should understand where you want to be five to fifteen years from now. Share your vision and mission for your company.

Communication skills

If the attorney always talks using legal terms and does not bother to explain it to you in terms you can understand, you need to look for someone else.

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Availability

Are they going to be available for meetings at your convenience at theirs? Can they take emergency phone calls or return one?

When you hire a lawyer, you need to draw up an engagement letter detailing all the billing method. If you employ more than one lawyer, make sure you have their hourly rate adequately specified in the letter so you will not get overcharged.

The agreement should also specify the expenses you are expected to reimburse. Some legal counsels expect to be reimbursed for their meals, postage, secretarial overtime, and photocopies. Agree with the reimbursements only if it is reasonable, necessary and can help your company grow.